12/14/2015 10:02AM

Fornatale: Former basketball official scores in contest


Joe Jarvie, a building engineer and former NCAA basketball official from Renton, Wash., won the 288-player NHCQualify.com contest on Saturday. Jarvie ($128.40), who was in first place at the end of the first day of the 2015 National Handicapping Championship, already is double qualified for 2016 and was playing for NHC Tour points only.

Jarvie had five winners. His first price was his largest, Aunt Nellie in the eighth race at Fair Grounds. Aunt Nellie paid $57 on the tote board, but that total was limited to $42 for contest purposes.

“I really liked the pace of the race, and the horse just exploded,” said Jarvie.

Heading into the last race, Jarvie was sitting in second place. Unlike most in the tournament, who were competing for one of six NHC seats, he really needed the win.

“I entered the tourney because I have been slipping in the top 20,” he said. “I was down to 15th, with not much between the last couple spots.”

In 2016, for the first time, the top 20 on the tour will be competing for an additional $25,000 at the NHC.

The horse Jarvie liked in the final race was Street Fancy, and when the 2-year-old filly drifted late from 5-1 to 6-1, Jarvie knew he had a little margin for error in trying to catch the leader. “Mike Smith gave Street Fancy a great ride, weaving the horse through to get up at $14.60,” he said.

When the new tour standings are posted later this week, Jarvie will be firmly in the top 20, but he knows he’s not out of the woods yet. “Could be lots of movement that first weekend in January as the tour comes to an end,” he said. “I’ll see how the totals add up to try and get in the top 10.”

The six players behind Jarvie are all headed to the NHC on Jan. 28-30 at Treasure Island in Las Vegas, where they will compete for their share of $2.5 million. Jeffery Coleman was second with $124.90. Dennis McCormick was a bit farther back in third, tallying $101.80. Mike Martin checked in fourth with $95.20. Cheryl Kaufman, who ended up with $93.60, got fifth. Michael Pirrung’s score of $92.60 was good enough for sixth, and the final qualifier was Russell Priola with $87.60.

All the qualifiers had Aunt Nellie as well. When you have a sequence where there’s one cap horse and only one other winner who pays more than $20, pretty much every qualifier will have the limit horse. But it’s important to note that the capper alone isn’t enough to qualify – the top seven all accrued at least $23.60 in additional points, and 14 players hit Aunt Nellie and missed the cut.

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On Saturday and Sunday in BCQualify.com feeder tournaments, 56 players won their buy-ins for next Sunday’s Dec. 20 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier for just $21. The overall winner on Saturday, topping a field of 300, was Jeffery Coleman, with a total of $138.30. That name should sound familiar. Coleman was second in the NHCQualify.com contest as well. He changed up his two entries early on but played them the same from the Aunt Nellie hit on.

On Sunday, Mike Kappel was best of 260 players on BCQualify.com with $109.40. He picked six of the 12 winners in the sequence.

Players who didn’t win in can still buy into next Sunday’s contest for $190.

Also on Sunday, there was a qualifier for the March 19-20 Gulfstream-Santa Anita contest on DRFQualify.com. Kenneth McMahan punched his ticket with $81.10, with four winners overall, including the last two, to just get up over Kappel. The smart money says that McMahan, a resident of Valencia, Calif., and a Santa Anita contest regular, will make the coast-to-coast contest a home game and play from the Great Race Place rather than traveling to Gulfstream.